Blue on Blue

PCT in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA  A field of blue lupins echo the deepening sky as day turns to night.  (Based on the photo by Gabi Fulcher 2014)

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When I started this painting I had no idea how blue it was going to go.  I had been doing a lot of inner work, thinking about my inner self, my concepts, my ideas, my integrity, my weaknesses.  Why do I think this way, what lessons are there to learn from our emotions… when I get frustrated or upset, what does that come from? Does it come from the situation at hand or from a lifetime of similar situations that make the current crisis seem bigger than it is?  I examined all my inner wounds like a forensic investigator, trying to make a case for guilt, innocence or acquittal.  I had no preconceived notions of the outcome but one word rose to the surface and I followed it like a flashlight in the darkness.

That word was compassion.  That I find the compassion in myself, that I nurture the compassion and choose the compassion rather than the hard edged anger and meanness that was trying to gain a foothold. I don’t like the hard edge… though I admire the strength anger has given me.  Anger is a good emotion, it’s a powerful one, but not one that should be driving my car.  You can’t make anger go away, but you can recognize it’s usefulness.  Anger is the fire that burns away the pain and takes you down to ash so you can rise again, clean and new and reborn.

Anger turned inward is depression.  There were too many times I had taken that anger and smoldered the flame with my body, inhaling the toxicity, allowing depression to take a toehold deep inside. And so, with the gray skies of the Pacific NorthWest dumping their seasonal load upon my home and myself, I found a deep blue streak staining my life. I had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.  I just couldn’t do it, that blue funk was everywhere.

But then there was compassion.  And compassion led me to stories and places and videos and chat groups and forums and a greater understanding.  I followed every lead, turned over every rock, searched in all the drawers, cupboards and forgotten shelves.  The anger that had masqueraded as depression was swept out and dealt with.  The light began to shine again as we rounded the equinox and the sun literally returned to my part of the world.

With gratitude, I stood before a blank canvas and painted yet another in my Wilderness Of Women (WOW), a series of paintings from the trail.  All paintings are from photos taken by women hikers.  So far I’ve only done one from my own photo, the rest were taken by other women hikers.  This image of the PCT is from the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington State. It was sent it to me last winter by the photographer/hiker, Gabi Fulcher.  It’s been hanging in my studio for some time now… and well, now seemed to be it’s moment.

All these WOW paintings have a vivid saturation of color that connects my deep love of these wild places to my heart.  This one was the same in intensity, but different in just one word.  The word is “I”.  As in “I” painted it, because it doesn’t feel like “I” actually did.  I stood before the canvas after sketching it out in my normal fashion.  I was between the 6th and 7th chakra painting in my last series (see previous post) and using the same palette of color I was about to start when I hesitated.  I’ve done this before, and usually with good results, so I trusted the pause.  And I said to my muse: go ahead… you got this one.  Do what you like, I’ll just hold the brush.  And so, she did. Or he… it doesn’t matter, my muse is gender neutral.

Blue on Blue can speak for itself.  It’s so much more than me.  Just like the word compassion.

 

Dark Shadows

Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head. Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.  -Me

 

Dear readers… this next post is personal.  Since my blog is The Work and Ideas of Sky Evans it seemed time to post some ideas.  But maybe it’s more of a confessional?  Either way, if you like my art more than words, and you want to skip this wordy post, rest assured you aren’t missing much in the way of visuals.  The art I used to illustrate this post is from my early years.  Not very good IMO, but interesting to see this other side.  Having said that, bear with me while I try something new.  Not instructional, or piece specific musings but thoughtful, as in full of thought.

 

I can't remember when I did this dragon in the clouds... but I kinda like it!

It was 1983 when I did this dragon in the clouds… I never really cared for it, but for some reason I kinda like it now!

In the past few weeks I had the art show in the vineyard and summer time visits with relatives, (both most enjoyable) but lately the weather has rolled in HOT HOT HOT which makes it hard to get much done if you don’t get up early.  I like the cold, it sharpens up my brain.  Hot weather has me laying around with sweaty glasses of ice tea clutched in my paw, moaning about the heat.

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But the day after the show I did wake up and sigh.  Not a “oh woe is me” sigh, or “damn I am about to be evicted” sigh or even a  “the world is fucked and my life is ruined” sigh.  Just a soft, weak, puppyish whimper… (I invoke the puppy image hoping to come off as cute instead of pathetic).  It was a “what now” sigh that I have come to associate with the let down after a long slog uphill.  The long slog was all the effort and energy getting ready for the show.  Which was good, and productive but definitely falls in the “uphill” category.

My display at the show.  All the hard work paid off.

My display at the show. Doesn’t look like that much hard work, but still….

Eight days later and it’s still not all put away. I seem to be having trouble getting my rhythm back after revving my engines for a week in anticipation of that 5 hours at the show. The hot weather does not help.

A thought and this post has been percolating away in my head since waking up with a “what-now-blues” feeling.  It’s about temperament. Specifically, artist’s temperament.  Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the notion that there was such a thing.  And that kind of temperament meant that artists were moody, prone to jags, hard to get along with and somewhat bi-polar, though in the old days, we called it manic/depressive.  As far as old days go, I am, literally, a child of the 60’s.  Andy Warhol and Peter Max were household names.  Jackson Pollock’s death and eccentric style was still in the forefront, and the music of the era included Don McLean’s famous “Vincent” which sparked a fresh look into Van Gogh and his famous mental illness.  (His work is among my personal favorites.)  Maybe these kinds of artists perpetuated the idea of the “artist’s temperament”.  Regardless of where it came from, I somehow grew up with the notion that there was such a thing.  And I was determined to prove it all wrong.

I Am The Endless Sky 1985

I Am The Endless Sky 1985.  Gravity defying tubes of paint and the cosmos.

Determined is a good word to describe me.  Not the only word, but a good one.  It irked me that artists were considered touchy and had to be “handled” for some reason.  Fuck that shit, I was as normal as normal could be.  Wasn’t I? With a flip of my locks, I would snort derisively.  I was determined to be happy, healthy, smart and together!  Reasonable, logical, empathetic, someone who was kind, a good person.  I wanted to be the best person I could be… I would not be a stereotype.  No dark shadows here!!

If I was reading this aloud, here’s the part where I would laugh.  Knowingly.  Maybe even sarcastically.

Because no one is really normal.  Normal doesn’t exist.  Decades later, I am finally coming to the realization that normal is an average and averages are made up of numbers that are added together and divided by themselves.  How can people be normal?  The world is a crazy place (watching the news will prove that) so normal must be crazy.  Maybe we should just embrace the crazy and applaud those who manage to cope and thrive amidst the chaos.

So then, is there an artistic temperament?  For a long time I didn’t even want to admit to being an artist. Even after I had a degree in Art, one in Art Education and had been an art teacher I was in denial.  I think I was denying the stereotype… but often stereotypes exist because they ring of truth.  Sigh. So okay, here goes.  Here’s my truth: I sometimes dance on the edge of depression.  Not a  “dancing with the stars” thing, but a little tap dance. I don’t believe I qualify for a full blown depression as outlined in the DSM-5 (not that I’ve read the description… I’d actually rather not know to what level I may rate) but little dark clouds have been a part of my life for a long, long time.

My Life, circa 1984

My Life, circa 1985

It’s my version of normal, those little dark shadows. When I was a pup myself, it was like waves of sadness.  In my childish mind, I could image I even heard voices whispering to me.  Nothing bad, but lonely and very sad.  I told my mother about it once; bless her for not minimizing or ridiculing me in any way.  I felt safe telling her about it.  But that was as far as it went.  Which may have been a good thing as it set me up to believe there wasn’t anything wrong about it and so, I didn’t worry about being sad.  My coping technique at the time was to sing.  I memorized the words to the Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and would invoke it whenever those shadows came a calling.  It always worked.  One run through and my brain was back on track and feeling peaceful and easy.

 

The inside part.

The inside part.

 

Well, I grew up and out of my imagined whispering and as life got busy and hectic, the shadows ebbed and were kept at bay with activity.  Alcohol in judicious amounts is also a tool for ignoring those small voices.  I never was much of a drinker though, I have a fine line for it’s toxic effects.  I’m basically a cheap date. Instead I hiked or rode away the sadness.  Being outside heals me.  Outside is bigger than all the sadness in my head.

 

The Zoo 1985

The Zoo 1984 In this piece, the protagonist is covered in flowers, she’s an exhibit in an alien zoo. She wants to escape her companions, the fuzzy slugs. But at least she’s OUTSIDE!!

 

But here’s the funny thing about little dark clouds.  They come back around when you aren’t looking. You wake up in the morning and there they are raining on your personal parade.  They leave you with a low grade sadness that is aptly named “The Blues”.  As a color, I like blue, but as for “The Blues”, well, they fuel my passion for leaving them behind.  If I get up and get moving and do something I can outrun them.  Maybe that’s why runners run.  I’m not a runner, but I can paint.  And when I paint, or create, I get out of my head.  Getting out of my head is a good thing.  I spend far too much time in there.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

 

In effect, I create because I have to.  So maybe there is something to this Artist’s Temperament after all.  Am I an artist because I have the temperament or do I have the temperament because I am an artist?

Either way, it’s also telling to me that I spend the most time with people who I believe fall on the low end of the crazy spectrum.  I can do edgy people, but only in small doses. But if indeed it is normal to be a touch crazy, then that puts me in the small doses band for everyone.  In other words, I can only “do people” in small doses.  Which makes me an introvert.  And indeed I do need alone time just to recuperate from normal social interactions.  Sometimes trying to stay dry under my own clouds is about all I can manage.